University of Jyväskylä

Dissertation: 22 May 2015 Rapid automatized naming and reading fluency in children with learning difficulties (Heikkilä)

Start date: May 22, 2015 12:00 PM

End date: May 22, 2015 03:00 PM

Location: Mattilanniemi, Agora, Gamma

Riikka HeikkiläM.A. (Psych.) Riikka Heikkilä defends her dissertation in Psychology titled "Rapid automatized naming and reading fluency in
children with Iearning difficulties". Opponent Associate Professor George K. Georgiou (University of Alberta) and custos Professor Timo Ahonen.

This research evaluated the ability to retrieve and fluently name serially presented familiar items, known as rapid automatized naming (RAN), as an underlying skill in reading disability and its role in a reading fluency intervention. The specificity of RAN on reading was examined in two studies among children with learning difficulties. These two studies showed that RAN was most strongly related to reading disabilities (RD), and less clearly related to math or attention deficits. This was especially true when RD was defined as reading speed or fluency. The association between RAN and RD was also examined within the framework of the double-deficit hypothesis (DDH), in which RAN is assumed to contribute independently to RD along with phonological awareness. The results among children with learning difficulties supported the DDH in that RAN was not related to phonological awareness but had a unique connection with reading fluency and speed. Children with double-deficit performed poorer in reading and spelling skills compared to the groups with a single deficit or controls. The reading fluency intervention, conducted among children with poor reading skill, showed significant effects on the repeated recognition of sublexical units (syllables). Moreover, a wordlevel transfer effect, which was also the strongest syllable-level intervention effect, was found for infrequent syllables. Reading fluency gains were greatest for the children with the lowest pre-intervention reading skills. The results showed that although RAN was associated with initial reading speed, it did not have an effect on the intervention gains. These studies strengthen the role of RAN as an independent skill underlying reading disabilities in a transparent language (Finnish) where reading disabilities are most strongly manifested as dysfluent reading. While comorbid learning problems were common and should be acknowledged in the assessment and intervention of reading, the slow naming speed found here indicated deficits specific to reading fluency. Despite the persistent nature of naming and reading fluency deficits, reading fluency does not seem to be resistant to intervention even when accompanied with naming speed deficits.

Keywords: rapid automatized naming, reading disabilities, reading fluency, reading speed, learning disability, comorbidity, reading intervention.


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Riikka Heikkilä